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Old 08-28-2013, 10:06 PM   #1
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Location: Middlebury, Vermont, USA
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Further north and further east -- an exploration of Nova Scotia

Prologue

I'm continually thankful that I get to live in one of the more scenic corners of the planet. Central Vermont boasts numerous twisty roads that tie together charming villages over rolling farmland and steep mountainsides. While my back-yard riding options are nothing to take for granted, it was traveling by motorcycle that attracted me to riding in the first place. I have the travel-bug and long to explore exotic places. Reading the fabulous trip reports at ADVrider has only fueled a greater hunger to step out of my day-to-day environment and explore new places. Since the Rocky Mountains are too far to fit into my vacation schedule this summer, I settled on maritime Canada (and Nova Scotia in particular) as a suitable destination from my two-week end-of-summer trip. As an inlander, the sea-coast provides a novel and ever changing landscape to feast my eyes upon and the population density seems about right to allow me to get a bit of wilderness fix while never being too far from the next town. I also wanted to try my hand at locating camping spots on deserted beaches and former logging cuts as a way to get away from the RV crowd at public campgrounds. While I wasn't quite sure what to expect on the ground, zooming around in Google Earth seemed to indicate many likely-suitable spots in Canada and Maine where no one would notice or mind a tent for the night.

My best guess at a planned route:


While the vacation itself is certainly the goal, at least 25% of the fun is thinking about and preparing for the adventure. In the weeks leading-up to the trip I took care of various maintenance on the bike, changing the oil and tires as well as adding a top-case and a few other bits and bobs. This trip also gave me an excuse to refresh my camp stove and a few other pieces of gear I haven't needed in a while. One of the things I thought I'd try out was this brand new super-hydrophobic-and-oleophobic coating called "NeverWet" after watching their YouTube videos I thought, "this would be perfect to keep water/mud off my boots/riding-pants". I'll come back to this later, but the moral of the story: don't. Preparations began in ernest a week out and by the night before I had the house clean, the bike packed, and was ready to go.



Days 1 & 2: Across New England

Saturday I woke up at dawn (a rarity for me), took a shower, and headed out the door. My trip would begin with a day and a half Aikido seminar in Brattleboro, two hours south in the bottom corner of Vermont. For those not familiar with Aikido, it is a martial art that focuses on blending with and redirecting the energy of an attacker. This seminar was focused on the receiving end of the engagement -- specifically, how to release the tension in your body and softly "give up" on the position of extremities (your arm for instance) so as to retain a balanced, strong core that can continue the attack/connection. I hope I'll be able to translate these lessons to riding as I see many parallels -- staying grounded through the torso and legs while the arms stay soft really helps with control when the bike hits an unexpected surface. A lovely community of practitioners attended this event and the river-swimming, potluck, and story-telling were *almost* as much fun as the training. ;-)


Saturday's stats: 99 miles, 1:58 moving, rural highways and mountain roads.

I'd never been much east of Portland, Maine, so after a morning of training and a quick lunch I loaded up and cranked out the super-slab miles to Ellsworth, Maine and the Lamoine State Park campground, across the bay from Mount Desert Island. While the weather was perfect and the traffic light, this was [hopefully] the most boring day of the trip. Thank goodness for the Sena Bluetooth headset and many hours of podcasts to keep me sane.

I pulled into the campground just after dark. The park office had just closed, so I found my pre-reserved site, set up my tent and proceeded to make my Mountain House "lasagna with meat sauce" freeze-dried dinner with mixed success. I recognize that these are "just add hot water and stir", but I was tired and hungry and figured I'd follow the suggested directions on the ziplock-topped bag that indicated that the water and solids be combined in the bag. Unfortunately, my spoon was much to short to reach far into the bag, so I closed the ziplock top and tried shaking… …only to have the ziplock open on the third shake, releasing a geyser of scalding sauce. After waiting for it to cool I poured the contents into my bowl only to find that my shaking had not produced sufficient turbulence and there were still numerous dry, powdery clumps floating on a lake of too-thin sauce. Not appetizing. While my bowl was too full to get vigorous I was eventually able to wet the clumps and at least homogenize the mixture a bit if not totally reconstitute it. In my ravenous state the result was at least edible if quite distant from "succulent".

After my much needed and refreshing shower I headed to bed. About 15 minutes later I awoke from my slumber to the wailing of a toddler in the next site over -- who continued to wail for about 30 minutes until the dad finally gave up, loaded his child up, and drove him/her off somewhere else settle down. I hope the kid wasn't deathly ill or something, but damn did he/she have some lungs.


Sunday's stats: 344 miles, 5:32 moving, almost all super-slab.


Day 3: Acadian Entry


Monday morning dawned with a grey cast and a light rain. Screaming children aside, I had slept pretty well and woke up at 7am. The first sound I heard after pulling out the ear-plugs was dripping on the tent-fly, so after checking the weather radar I went back to sleep for another hour to wait out the drizzle. I rolled out of bed at 9am, took some photos by the water, had a more-successful-than-dinner-was breakfast, and finally rolled out of the campground at 10am -- a bit later than I was hoping.



Given the remnants of dreary weather I just did a quick loop around Acadia National Park rather than stopping to hike or explore. My main target in the park was to drive up Cadillac Mountain. It's road was beautiful and twisty and if not for the heavy traffic and 25mph speed limit would be a destination in itself. With the traffic and speed limit it was still quite fun (and the vistas were great), but I wouldn't recommend traveling too far just to ride it. I stopped for a quick look around -- low clouds made recreating the classic Frenchman Bay photos impossible -- then headed down to Bar Harbor for lunch. At this point it was 1pm and I was about two hours behind the schedule so I stopped at the first tourist-trap lobster place I could find for my obligatory lobster-role and lobster bisque. The fare was tasty, but pretty basic for the exorbitant price, so I left as quickly as possible to get back on the road.

From Bar Harbor I took the coastal route (US-1, US-1A, and ME-191) to it's end in Lubec and the bridge to the Canadian Campobello Island. The coastal route east of Ellsworth was lovely and kept getting better as I split off onto the smaller US-1A and then the even smaller ME-191. The inland sections were often just pine trees, but the views of bays and inlets were lovely. ME-191 was especially fun. Along it's rolling curves I came across the tiny village of Cutler. At 5pm the late afternoon sun bathed the harbor in a lovely light while the boats unloaded their catch in the harbor. The clearing weather may have had something to do with it, but it was my favorite view of the Maine coast.



As I rode along I kept pondering the name "Acadia" as it has something of a magical or mystical ring to it. Finally I broke down and looked it up. "[It] derives from the Arcadia district in Greece which since classical antiquity has the extended meanings of "refuge" or "idyllic place". (-- Wikipedia). Quite a fitting name for this beautiful rugged coastline with snug harbors.

After crossing the bridge into Canada's Campobello Island I stopped at the border check-point and found that I was now yet another hour behind schedule due to my entry into the Atlantic time-zone and the last ferry to Deer Island would be leaving soon. With no time to explore Campobello Island I head straight for the "ferry terminal", a gravel road to a gravel beach with a small concrete boat-launch. Shortly the ferry pulled up and dropped it's ramp onto the boat launch and all three waiting vehicles drove aboard. This tiny ferry was a neat design; rather than a pilot-house in the center, the pilot house was a separate vessel permanently hitched to the side of the barge-portion by means of an articulated metal frame. As the ferry backed away from the shore it swung away from the barge and then nestled back in facing the other direction -- quite a trick!





The ride to Deer Island was quite scenic, passing numerous small islands on both the US and Canadian sides of the border. Upon reaching Deer Island there was no concrete ramp; instead the ferry just dropped the ramp on the wet sand and we drove up the beach. Deer Island was also quite scenic with a nice twisty road hugging the coast all the way to the second (year-round) ferry to mainland New Brunswick.



Monday night was my first chance to try my hand at camping in hidden-away spots and I had found a few likely candidates on the coast near Dipper Harbor, where dirt roads led to the sea with no houses nearby. As I rode down the first lane the road got narrower and narrower over several kilometers until it eventually turned to an ATV track near a small pond. It was getting dark so I only explored down the ATV trail a short way before realizing that it was going to turn to mud before I found a stopping place better than the pond. The pond wasn't quite as ideal as I had hoped since the mosquitos were ferocious and I couldn't see the ocean, but hey, at least it was a free camping spot that was unlikely to disturb or be disturbed. With liberal sprays of Off to my person I proceeded to pitch my tent and get dinner going in the fading light. This time I skipped on the "prepare in bag" suggestion and made my Mountain House beef stroganoff right in my bowl. I over-filled the water a little, but at least I was able to stir properly.




Monday's Stats: 225 miles, (forgot to check the moving-time on the GPS), coastal highways and back-roads.

More to come... (I'm in Halifax now and looking at a rainy day in the city.)

AdamVT screwed with this post 08-29-2013 at 04:52 AM
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Old 08-29-2013, 02:07 AM   #2
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Lots to see and do in Halifax, great local music, fun and unique restaurants, and you should have great weather for your time in Nova Scotia. Hopefully the rest of your attempts at some off the beaten path campsites work out better, there are lots to be found, that's for sure.

Have fun and get up to see the Cabot Trail if you can. Camping on the cliffs at Meat Cove is an experience, up at the tip of the island, if you've got the time.
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Old 08-29-2013, 09:11 AM   #3
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Fundy Crossing

Day 4: Fundy Crossing

I awoke in my Dipper Harbor campsite to a glorious blue-sky day with golden light falling on the pond. After rebooting my phone for the third time it finally was able to register on the Bell Canada network with the prepaid SIM card I had ordered ahead of the trip from Similicious. Yay for 4G in the woods! Pulling up Google Earth and browsing my location I noticed another reason for the minimal residential development along on this road: my campsite was a mile from the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. I don't think I'll make a practice of camping next to power plants, but it did help to keep the traffic low. :-)



The mosquitos were still swarming in the morning, so I ate my oatmeal in the tent and packed up as quickly as possible. On my way out the lane to the main road I noted several nice spots with ocean views that I had missed on my way in. Out-of-the-way-camping lesson #1: Look for spots at least an hour before sunset so that you have a chance to look at a couple and then go back to the best one.

In recent life I've proven myself to be a reasonably organized person who can make it to meetings and appointments on time, but I'm something of a night-owl and getting up and going in the morning has never been a strong suit of mine. I haven't gotten a good rhythm with it yet and breaking camp, packing up, and getting on the road took me a full two hours, eating up most of the morning. From Dipper Harbor I jumped on the expressway to Saint John in order to catch the noon ferry across the Bay of Fundy to Digby, Nova Scotia. My Lonely Planet guidebook has raved about how quaint the old downtown of Saint John is, but approaching the city from the west the skyline of industrial smoke-stacks quenched any regrets about heading straight for the ferry terminal.

After boarding and strapping down the bike, I spent most of the 3-hour crossing enjoying a lunch of bacon-wrapped scallops and uploading photos via the free wifi. Most of the bay was fogged in so there wasn't too much to see until we got close to the shore.



As much as I wanted to get on the road, I wanted to give the Annapolis Valley and Fundy shore of Nova Scotia at least a bit of a gander since I wasn't likely to be on this side of the peninsula again. First though, I wanted to deal with the NeverWet coating I mentioned in my first post. While the coating does seem to live up to its super-hydrophobic-and-oleophobic claims (meaning that both water and oil run right off without wetting the surface), what it doesn't do (and honestly doesn't claim to do) is have *any* durability. When I first applied the coating I noticed that it gave my black riding boots a "bad sky-blue spray paint job" look to them, but I was willing to disregard the appearance in order to test the efficacy of the product. Unfortunately, it turns out that the coating rubs off with the slightest abrasion or flexing of the material, loosing all benefit while leaving the boots looking even worse. In Digby I decided that enough was enough and I was going to get the NeverWet off so I could replace it with a proper boot-waterproofing. I stopped by the town's hardware store pick up some paint thinner and the poor durability of the NeverWet came in handy as I spent about 45 minutes scrubbing all traces of it off my gear.



That task complete, I headed back downtown to walk around the harbor and have a lovely scallop dinner at the Fundy Restaurant overlooking the harbor. I've eaten a lot of scallops over the years, but these were the best I've ever had.








The Wharf Rat Rally was starting up in Digby the next day and since the loud pipes and custom paint-jobs thing isn't really my scene I pulled out of the rapidly-filling town and headed inland. The Lonely Planet made the little village of Bear River sound like a nice place to visit, so I routed myself via this hamlet. I'm beginning to doubt the notability of mention in the guide since Bear River I saw was a tiny village 3 buildings on the river and a couple of residential streets -- certainly a pleasant-looking place, but not a destination unless you are really hard-up for sights.

From Bear River I was aiming at a campsite about 30 minutes away along a Mersey River near Maitland Bridge. The dirt road I was traveling hadn't been graded in a while though, forcing me to keep the speed down so as to not slam into the frequent potholes and washboard bumps. 30 minutes later I was only half-way along and the sun was heading down to the horizon just as I passed a beautiful hill-top meadow in the middle of nowhere. The meadow was a patchwork of knee-high golden wild grasses mixed in with other darker green clumps of weeds and other vegetation. Somewhat recent heavy-equipment tracks crisscrossed the meadow and I didn't see any no-trespassing signs or a gate so I wound my way along the track up to the top of the hill where I found a nice flat spot between two 30-foot-tall piles of round boulders. The meadow had obviously been cleared of both trees and rocks for some purpose, but I couldn't figure out what. It was a truly glorious spot and I didn't seem in danger of disturbing anyone, so I made camp in the grass and settled in for a beautiful, silent, and starry night.








Day 4 stats: 69 miles of riding/44 miles of ferry

AdamVT screwed with this post 08-29-2013 at 05:39 PM Reason: Added track map and retitled heading.
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Old 08-29-2013, 08:07 PM   #4
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Day 5: On the South Shore

Day 5: On the South Shore

After a deep and restful sleep in the hill-top meadow I awoke to the soft light of a misty morning. A heavy dew covered everything and the mists muted some sounds and carried others in the funny way it does. I had an apple and granola bar for breakfast, packed up the tent, and wound my way back out of the meadow.





About 1/2 a mile down the road at the next meadow I had my answer to the existence of these lovely clearings with large piles of rocks: "Commercial wild blueberries -- no trespassing". Come to think of it, I had noticed some 1-foot high scrubby shrubbery scattered about in patches in the meadow that I thankfully didn't trample. I guess the meadow was just too good to be true; wild blueberries are now another item to add to the list of crops to avoid damaging. About a half hour later I hit pavement again and came upon my original camping target which turned out to be a lovely river-access point with plenty of space for camping. The meadow was certainly more scenic, but given the need for accidental trespassing in the meadow, the river spot would be a better choice for future trips.



After a brief pause for coffee at the Hollow Log Cafe near Kejimkujik National Park I continued my way across the peninsula to the charming town of Lunenburg. I had a lunch of scallop chowder and fish cakes at the Magnolia Grill, visited the Fisheries Museum, and wandered the town for several hours.



Lunenburg was impressive in that it managed to be a lovely and historic tourist destination while still retaining a charming "real town" feel. As I continued up the coast toward Halifax many of the towns began to feel like beach-cottage municipalities with no real town center that I could find.





After several hours in Lunenburg I felt like I'd sufficiently seen the place and head off down the coast-road exploring to the end of several peninsulas. The coastal road was a blast to ride and the rocky sea-shore a lovely compliment to the mostly-smooth pavement. By the time I reached the Head of Saint Margaret's Bay it was getting on about 5:30pm and I was ready to wind down and get off the road. I'd hoped to head down the next peninsula to Peggy's cove this evening but a heavy fog rolling in from the sea made attempting to push beyond my flagging energy reserves completely pointless. As I was on the outskirts of Halifax I figured I'd continue into the city for the night as there seemed to be no lodging anywhere near me. I got a last-minute room at the "Hosteling International -- Halifax", ate some Thai food, then spent a long evening doing laundry and drinking beer with a guy named John from NYC who is spending 11 weeks in 11 hostels around Canada and northern europe as a retirement kick-off trip.


Day 5 stats: 177 miles, 4:15 moving
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Old 09-01-2013, 05:53 PM   #5
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Day 6: Halifax

Day 6: Halifax

After an all-too-brief sleep I was startled awake by my alarm clock that I hadn't meant to set. I began kicking myself only to remember that I was in a [expensive] metered parking space and needed to find a garage in which to stash the bike for the day. Several laps around the neighborhood later I'd located the municipal garage and wandered back to the hostel just a bit too awake to bother going back to sleep.



With skies heavy and a light drizzle all day I spent the morning in the hostel processing photos and writing these entries. Since I had already seen Lunenburg's maritime museum I skipped Halifax's version and walked around the waterfront looking for restaurants. After a late lunch of seafood pot-pie I continued wandering the streets. Drizzle aside, Halifax seems like a really great city. The architecture is an eclectic mix of historic and modern where the historic is quite lovely stone and brick-work while the modern has an unfortunate blocky heft to it. I won't call the modern buildings ugly, but most certainly aren't inspirational in their design. While the city is large enough to have many things going on, it's not overwhelmingly vast and the downtown is totally manageable on foot.



After roaming the streets for a while I headed up the hill to the citadel -- a Victorian-era fortress that was the central fortification of several used by the British to maintain control the Halifax harbor throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The citadel is now run as a historic site by Parks Canada with interpretive guides dress in period garb from the 1870 garrison of the 78th Highlander Brigade. While touring the grounds I chatted a bit with the staff bagpiper, a young fellow who also plays with an international competition band when not dressed period garb at the citadel. I haven't played the pipes in years but my favorite music has always been the wispy melodies of the ancient piobaireachd style rather than the up-beat marches so often played by the pipe bands I see in parades. After mentioning this to the piper he kindly launched in to a lovely 10-minute piobaireachd that chased away the melancholy brought on by the minimal sleep and grey weather.



Since I only had a single night booked at the hostel I found a Quality Inn across the harbor in Dartmouth to stay for the rest of the rainy night and dry out my still-damp tent. While it was only 4 miles across the city I managed to have to close-calls enroute. After crossing the harbor I approached the toll-plaza and headed for the staffed lane since I didn't want to be digging around for coins and holding up traffic. I pulled in, put the bike in neutral, took of the gloves, got out my wallet, handed the guy a $20, got my change, put it back in my wallet, put the wallet away, put on the gloves, shifted into first, and then pull away. As I pulled out toward the crossbar-gate a loud buzzer blared and lights flashed saying "STOP AND PAY TOLL" causing me to almost loose it before the gate popped up and I regained my balance. Later when I reached the hotel it turns out that I had been given full change for the $20 and was expected to pull forward and put $1 coin into the machine before proceeding -- not something that was obvious to me at the time. Just as my heart-rate was going back down I rounded a very slight bend and felt the front end drop as the front tire skated away on a white-painted arrow in the lane. Luckily the tire hooked up a few feet later on the pavement and I was left with only some crazy wobbles and a return to the elevated heart-rate. I eased it the last mile to the Quality Inn and was happy to be off the wet road.

Once in my room I pulled out the 50 feet of para-cord that I had bought on a whim while browsing the camping section at Dick's a few weeks ago and proceeded to turn my room into a crazy nest of drying gear. Hopefully staying in the motel will allow me to get on the road early and make some good miles.


Day 6 stats: 2-3 miles walking, 5 miles riding
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Old 09-01-2013, 07:29 PM   #6
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I'm leaving wednesday on almost the same route from cape cod so I'll be a few days behind you. Sadly I'll be taking the big K1600 and not the GSA, as mama isn't to comfy riding pillion on the GSA. This may limit the places I can go, but time will tell. I'll be following your report as I go, and posting my own, though I'm not sure if I can add pics from an iPad .

I have a house in Reading VT, maybe we can get together and compare notes later in the fall. I could use a riding buddy in VT to show me around a bit.
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Old 09-02-2013, 06:47 PM   #7
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Enjoying the RR. I was in Nova Scotia about 25 years ago and loved it. Ride safe, have fun, and greetings from Brattleboro !
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Old 09-02-2013, 06:59 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Wdwrkr View Post
I'm leaving wednesday on almost the same route from cape cod so I'll be a few days behind you. Sadly I'll be taking the big K1600 and not the GSA, as mama isn't to comfy riding pillion on the GSA. This may limit the places I can go, but time will tell. I'll be following your report as I go, and posting my own, though I'm not sure if I can add pics from an iPad .

I have a house in Reading VT, maybe we can get together and compare notes later in the fall. I could use a riding buddy in VT to show me around a bit.
I hope you have a great trip Wdwrkr, I'll keep an eye out for your thread! Give me a shout when you're in VT, I'd love to get together for a ride and recap. I'll try to get some more posts out shortly now that I have both wifi and power -- the best is still to come.
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Old 09-02-2013, 07:11 PM   #9
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I grew up in Souris PEI! to not be stuck in boat traffic when you get off the ferry hang a right onto the number 4 Shore road and follow it to murray river then on to montague. it is a nice ride alone the shore there and you will see rossignol winery there is not much difference in travel time. you almost make it to my home town on your map. lol I am bias but if you have time you should take in Basin head! It is a big draw to the east end of the island for people from away and if the tide is going out the water will still be really warm right up to mid September.
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Old 09-02-2013, 07:48 PM   #10
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I grew up in Souris PEI! to not be stuck in boat traffic when you get off the ferry hang a right onto the number 4 Shore road and follow it to murray river then on to montague. it is a nice ride alone the shore there and you will see rossignol winery there is not much difference in travel time. you almost make it to my home town on your map. lol I am bias but if you have time you should take in Basin head! It is a big draw to the east end of the island for people from away and if the tide is going out the water will still be really warm right up to mid September.
Thanks for the tip! I got off the ferry a bit later than expected this evening and it was starting to rain so I ended up finding a cozy B&B in Murray Harbor for the night. The forecast for tomorrow is a bit dismal, but if it isn't a deluge I'm hoping to swing by Panmure Island, Basin Head, and the East Point lighthouse before working my way west across PEI and over the bridge toward Moncton. I wish I had more time in PEI but I have a solid two days of riding west of Moncton to get home and want to leave time for sitting out the thunderstorms that may be crossing my route. On my next trip I'll remember not to short-change PEI!
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Old 09-02-2013, 07:50 PM   #11
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Day 7: The Eastern Shore

Day 7: The Eastern Shore

While my alarm going off told me it was time to get up, a headache and general queasiness convinced me otherwise. Back to sleep for another few hours; this isn't going to be an early morning after all. The continental breakfast at the Dartmouth Quality Inn and a walk to the grocery store for some ibuprofen improved my state enough to get on the road by 11:45. My destination for the day was Canso, a little village on the far-eastern tip of the the Nova Scotia peninsula. The rains had passed, pushed on their way by an impressive wind, gusts of which several times threatened to peel my off the bike. After about half an hour of buffeting on the hill-top highway the road narrowed and tucked in along the shoreline, protected a bit from the landward winds. I stopped for a tasty bowl of chowder and a salad in Sheet Harbour and continued on down the beautiful coastline with grey skies overhead.

While crossing a bay on the County Harbour cable-ferry I had a nice chat with a young woman (who grew up in Canso) and her French boyfriend who had recently been traveling around New Zealand in a similar fashion, camping on beaches wherever looked nice. She mentioned that Canso is a pretty little village, but that the closest restaurant was probably 30 minutes away in Guysborough. As if to highlight how small a place it is, upon hearing that she was from Canso the ferryman (who had moved away from Canso some years back) and woman started swapping lists of names to determine how many friends and family they had in common.

The Route 316 east of the County Harbour ferry had a pretty terrible surface, massively frost-heaved with grass growing in many of the larger cracks in the road. This section must be painful in cars as any attempt to save the right tire from a frost heave would simply sacrifice the left to another. On the bike though I was partially able to weave about and avoid the worst of the jolts. At about 4:30 pulled over for some photos along the scenic New Harbour River.



One of the potential camping spots I'd identified via satellite imagery was just around the bend at the mouth of the river so I pulled in to see how the ground-truth matched with the overhead view. The grassy area visible in satellite view had partially flooded with the recent rains, but the water wasn't too deep and I was able to splash through to some small sand dunes separating the grass from the rocky beach. As I relaxed a bit and took some photos the sun began peeking through the clouds and began to regret needing to leave this spot and continue on my way for another few hours. It took me a bit before I caught myself and remembered that I really didn't have anywhere that I needed to be. With the exception of eventually getting home by a certain date, all of my planning was really just to help me have a good time. Sure I had only done a short day of riding and still had several before sunset, but why not relax here and watch the waves?





Mind made up, I verified that there were no "No Camping" signs even though there were several fire rings in the grass and on the dunes. I set up my tent in the short grass behind the dunes and carried my cookware over to the beach to make dinner next to the water. As I was supping an older couple backed their car out to the beach and looked around for a few moment a bit awkwardly but didn't seem as if they were going to stay. I had a feeling I'd been spotted and they were making sure everything was on the up-and-up. I said hello and asked if they lived nearby. "Just across the way" they said, pointing to the houses on the other side of the cove. "Would I be bothering anyone by camping here for the night?" I asked. "Not at all, people do it all the time," was the reply. I guess I passed muster as that was the end of the conversation and they promptly got in their car and left.



I'd brought my book with me to the beach but never got around to picking it up and just watched the shifting light on the water for several hours. Thinking back to my impulse to continue on the route I'd planned, I pondered what motives had brought me here to this place and in this fashion. While I've always enjoyed traveling coast-lines on previous trips, the ocean hasn't been a big feature in my life to date. Why was I hungering for it now? Was it some deeply buried impulse rising to the surface or merely the latest fad to be intrigued with? Similarly, why was I camping? While I camped a lot in my teens, it's been over a decade since I've done more than an overnight next to the car. I can be a bit of a penny pincher sometimes, but I could have afforded to stay at B&Bs the whole trip and saved myself a lot of gear and a large amount of hassle.



I don't fully understand my motives for getting here, but a few of them (in roughly equal balance) are a desire to explore the terrain and find out what lies beyond the next hill, a desire to see the notable sights, and a desire to find out if I really can enjoy camping most nights on a long trip. Reading ride reports on ADVrider has me dreaming of riding to places far, far away -- Labrador, Alaska, other continents -- but the realistic person in me recognizes the need to figure out if I can hack a more reasonable journey before launching myself far in over my head on a truly grand adventure.

When I woke up this morning I wasn't looking forward to tenting at all; the overcast skies and under-the-weather feelings had me wondering why I was planning to do so. Fast forward several hours and I'm loving the peace and quite of just the crashing surf, so glad that I'm not in a sterile motel room. The hassle of making camp, soon breaking camp, and dining on Mountain House "chili-mac with beef" are small prices to pay for hours spent next to the water. Getting outside of the city also avoids the need get everything off of the bike and schlep it into a hotel room. At this moment I really like camping and am so glad I didn't push on just for the sake of completing a line on the map.

As twilight faded into darkness the already sparse traffic on the road ceased completely and the clouds receded to reveal a glorious night sky scored solely by the crashing of the surf.





Day 7 stats: 169 miles, 3:30 moving
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Old 09-03-2013, 06:58 AM   #12
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Day 8: Across Cape Breton

Day 8: Across Cape Breton

One of the things that has vexed me the most on this trip is deciding how much time to spend getting to know a place and sight-seeing versus covering ground and viewing the landscape from the road. On most of my previous big international trips (when traveling by train or car) I've really enjoyed setting up a "base" in a particular town or city for 3-5 days and doing hikes and day-trips from there. Having that home base to return to each night allows one to try several (or all) of the restaurants in town and begin to get to know some of the rhythms of that locale in ways that are impossible if you show up late and leave early. Being completely nomadic on this trip has allowed me to see a large swath of territory, but not without sacrificing that more intimate sense of place. I keep feeling torn between the two styles of travel, but so far on this trip finding out what's over the next hill keeps winning out.

At some point in the pre-dawn twilight a muffled splash, hiss, and soft cursing pass through my consciousness and are promptly discarded as nothing to worry about. I awake at 7am and emerge from my tent rested and ready to meet the glorious morning. I wander up to the beach and say hello the source of the twilight noises: a man named Sean Foley who had nearly sunk his car in the flooded meadow while coming in to fish for striped bass from the beach. Not knowing what a striped bass was or how one would fish for it I asked for and received a good overview before wandering back to my tent to get started on breakfast. Not 5 minutes went by before Sean walks by with a fish the size of my leg (29-inches, that one) and puts it in his trunk on ice. Before I finish packing he lands a 28-inch fish to go with the first.

I'm actually on the road by 9am for once and head off toward the causeway connecting to Cape Breton. My goal is to loop around the eastern shore and see the Ile Madame before working my way to the Louisbourg historic site for the afternoon. The weather forecast seems variable though, so I decide to hold off on a firm plan until after lunch. The Ile Madame was much smaller and flatter than I was expecting, though pretty none the less. I stopped in what I'm assuming is the main village on the island, Arichat, and was initially foiled in my quest for cuisine when the only restaurant I could find had a sign on it's door say "closed for lunch 12-1". Really?!?!? A restaurant that closes so the proprietor can go off for lunch at lunchtime?!?!? After a few more loops around the village I found an alternate joint: Sporty's Take-Out, a little fry shop where I filled up on fried seafood and fries with gravy while chatting with a few locals.



I checked the weather again and the forecast was now for sun all day today followed by rain for the next few days. After 5 days in Nova Scotia I still haven't seen the dramatic cliffs into the sea that I had been imagining. Apparently almost all of Nova Scotia is [beautiful] rolling lowlands and the mountains are only to be found on the northern end of Cape Breton. Since the mountains were what I really wanted to see (and ride) I decided to skip on Louisbourg and make straight for the Cabot Trail and Meat Cove.

My route across Cape Breton took me along the Bras d'Or Lake, a brackish body of water similar in size to my local Lake Champlain, that almost cleaves Cape Breton in two. The rolling hills along the lake-shore were quite scenic but not jaw-dropping.





After rounding the top of the lake I finally arrived at the "World Famous Cabot Trail" and was immediately introduced to its majestic curves. I was riding the Trail counter-clockwise, starting from the southeast end and working my way north. On a whim I decided to skip the Englishtown ferry and start the Cabot Trail right from its more southerly junction with Highway 105 and was glad that I did. That first section of the the Trail was a splendid serpentine road with good pavement and absolutely no traffic. The sun was shining, the scenery beautiful, and the road magnificent. Then I came to Cape Smokey and my jaw dropped. Here was the road of my dreams, twisting and turning up the cliff-side with the sea far below. It was so good that I rode back down to do it again. And again. :-D



After the fun at Cape Smokey, continuing north the Cabot Trail was still a blast, but just a bit more tame. Near Dingwall I left the trail and headed north to get to Meat Cove, a tiny village of about 60 inhabitants and campground at the northern tip of Cape Breton Island. The road to Meat Cove was thrilling as well, with winding paved sections and even more twisty dirt ones. The coastline surrounding Meat Cove is stupendous, with layers of shale and other rock formations crumbling into the sea. Where most campgrounds are situated on flat areas, the Meat Cove campground is perched on a steep hillside with sheer cliffs below. A variety of flat spots are carved into the hill so that you won't roll out of your tent, but this is definitely not a place to wander around in the dark while heavily intoxicated. I set up my tent as the evening sun slipped behind the headlands, repeatedly pausing to marvel at the view. I hadn't fully recognized it before, but getting here was the goal of the trip -- to be where the mountains meet the sea. I'd naively hoped to find this kind of scenery scattered throughout Maine and Nova Scotia only to be foiled by less dramatic elevations. Now I had arrived.



Eventually I managed to get my tent set up on a somewhat-flat spot and ate a surprisingly tasty dinner at the campground's Chowder Hut. While I was eating another camper came in with a report of whales in the cove, but they were gone by the time I got outside. After chatting with several groups of travelers -- including four 20-something guys from Maine riding three Shadows and a V-Strom who had been planning to hammock-camp and were caught off guard by the lack of trees -- I hit the sack early and fell asleep to the crashing waves yet again.




Day 8 stats: 302 miles, 6:00 moving
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Old 09-03-2013, 07:27 AM   #13
tmills
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Was down your way to Rutland a few weeks ago. If you need anything I'm in Truro, NS

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Old 09-03-2013, 09:01 AM   #14
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Nice!!

Nice Ride Report, I am enjoying your pictures and report. Have fun.

Cheers
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Old 09-03-2013, 09:12 AM   #15
C-Stain
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Location: Canoodia, eh?
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As a life long resident of Nova Scotia, I'm always interested in seeing other's perspectives of my home province. I think that the Eastern Shore is going to have to be put on my "must ride" list. Keep it coming!
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